Dottie Winn cuts right to the chase — she went to beauty school for “something to do” and never had any intentions of working on women’s hair.
So she didn’t.
“I’m actually a hairdresser, but I never worked in a beauty shop,” she said. “I went straight to a barbershop.”
Born and raised around Jones County, she married a Navy submarine sailor. At one point, she owned a restaurant in Connecticut, which featured home-style cooking.
“When we sold the restaurant, I thought, well, what am I gonna do now?” she asked. “I just didn’t have nothing else to do to fill up the time.
“I love cutting hair, not necessarily women’s hair, but I like cutting men’s hair. I always kept my husband’s hair cut.”
She wound up working in a variety of barbershops before she and her husband, Roy, moved to Wayne County.
“I was at McFly’s for about 15 years, and then I was on the base at the NCO club barbershop before then for a few years,” she said. “It’s been probably 20 years or so because I’ve been cutting guys’ hair and sometimes they come in and say, ‘You’ve been cutting my hair for 20 years.’
“Boy, time flies!”
McFly’s had been somewhat of a local fixture, as it was conveniently located right outside the main gate of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. A couple of years ago, the owner decided to retire and close up shop.
Jason Curtis, an employee at McFly’s, salvaged the situation and the jobs of his co-workers. It was important to stay in familiar surroundings, Winn said.
“Jason said, ‘Well, we could go across town,’ ” she recalled. “I said, ‘No, we are not! I’m staying on this side of town. This place is available. You rent it!’ ”
Curtis rented a space in the same building, got it all cleaned up and opened it as Headlinez Premium Haircuts.
“This location, you’re right outside the gate, all of our clientele that I’ve been doing for 20 years, they know where I’m at,” Winn said. “(If) I move across town — men are funny. They won’t follow you too far. So you’ve got to stay where they’re at.”
It is convenient, for civilians and residents of the area, but especially for active duty and retired military, she said.
“When they’re coming right out of this gate or retirees, they go get their medication on base, buy groceries on base, boom! They come right in for a haircut,” she said. “They go get their stuff done, they’re leaving the base, here we are. Right outside the gate, on the same side as they’re leaving.”
The business is open six days a week — Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. — and takes walk-ins only.
“It’s kind of hard doing appointments because you can have the whole shop full and somebody comes in and says, ‘I’ve got a 10 o’clock appointment’ and they go to the head of the line and these guys have been waiting an hour, you know,” she said. “You get to wait for the barber you want to cut your hair. You don’t have to go to the next available barber. You wait for the one you want to cut your hair.”
During those especially busy times, Winn maintains steady scissorhands.
“My philosophy is you take care of the one in your chair and don’t even worry about who’s sitting waiting,” she said. “Concentrate on the one in your chair, and this way you don’t get flustered because there are 10 people waiting. Just worry about the one in your chair.”
In addition to Winn and Curtis, other employees are Andrea Osborne and Renee Johnson. The female-dominant ratio is not uncommon these days.
“A lot of women are doing the barbering in today’s world,” Winn said. “It’s hard to find a barbershop, unless it’s a one- or two-man shop, that doesn’t have some women in there working.”
When asked the difference between being a barber and a hairdresser or stylist, Winn can hardly contain her laughter.
“I don’t know if you should write that or not. Barbers kind of think hairdressers don’t really know as much about cutting men’s hair as they do. Guess what? We do,” she said, laughing before enlisting backup from her co-worker. “Andrea, am I right? Barbers seem to think hairdressers can’t cut hair as well as barbers?”
“It’s true,” Osborne replied.
“But we can,” Winn said.
“Yeah, I don’t get it,” Osborne said.
Their shop has one barber, and the others are hairdressers, Winn pointed out.
“Once in a while, somebody will come and say, ‘I want a man barber.’ Well, we’ve got Jason. He ain’t no barber, but we ain’t telling them that,” she said, a broad smile breaking out across her face.
The atmosphere is relaxing and yet fun, with an easygoing clientele with very simple needs — getting a good haircut.
“We don’t do that many women,” Winn said, “because we do not style or do color or anything like that.”
She and Osborne happen to like it that way, they say.
“You ain’t got to put up with no women’s crap!” Osborne joked. “And, like, there are certain kinds of females that can do this (job). The prissy kind can’t.”
It is definitely something you either love or you hate, Winn agreed. Fortunately, she happens to enjoy the pace and the clientele.
“I love to talk to people — you get to meet all different types of people, and you build relationships,” she said. “You’re friendly with them, you get to know what’s going on in their lives, their families. If they’re having problems at home and stuff, they’ll tell their barbers.”
Back in the day she moved a lot more quickly — it was nothing to clip 40, 50 heads a day, she said. Her all-time record was the day she and a co-worker engaged in a healthy competition, and she did 96 haircuts in one day, “just for the heck of it,” she said.
Now that she’s 73, she may have slowed down a bit but shows no signs of stopping.
“They say, ‘When are you planning to retire? I don’t want to have to start looking for another barber yet.’ I say, when I drop dead by my chair,” she said, letting out another of her famous hearty laughs. “They call me the 100-year-old woman in here.”